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Best of John Grochowski

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Blackjack's 21 + 3 versus Lucky Ladies

22 February 2015

QUESTION: Most of the low-limit blackjack tables near my house have the 21 + 3 side bet, which you’ve written about before. However, one casino has Lucky Ladies with this pay table: two Queens of Hearts when the dealer has a blackjack, 1,000-1; two Queens of Hearts, 125-1, total of 20 when the cards are the same rank and suit, 19-1; total of 20, same suit, different ranks, 9-1; total of 20, different suits, 4-1.

Is that better or worse than 21 + 3? How big is the house advantage?

ANSWER: At that pay table, Lucky Ladies has a house edge of 24.71 percent in a six-deck game – the more decks the better in Lucky Ladies. In an eight-deck game, the house edge drops to 24.05 percent, and in a two-deck game it rises to 30.05 percent, according to an analysis at Michael Shackleford’s WizardofOdds.com site.

It’s not the best available version of Lucky Ladies. Another permutation pays 1,000-1 on two Queens of Hearts with a dealer blackjack, 200-1 on two Queens of Hearts, 25-1 on 20s of same rank and suit, 10-1 on suited 20s and 4-1 on unsuited 20s. That lowers the house edge to 17.64 percent in a six-deck game.

Those are house edges of the type I warn players against on games throughout the casino. I recommend that craps players avoid one-roll propositions, where house edges can be as high as the 16.67 percent on any 7. The Lucky Ladies side bets have higher house edges. You’re paying a big price in exchange for a shot at that 1,000-1 bonanza.

On 21 + 3, you get a 9-1 payoff on any three-card flush or better made up of your first two cards and the dealer’s face up card. The house edge is 3.24 percent, which is a lot more palatable than the Lucky Ladies edges.

However, even the 21 + 3 house edge is higher than that on the basic game of blackjack. If you know your basic strategy, you can knock the edge down to less than 1 percent. On a fairly typical, no-frills game such as six-decks, dealer hits soft 17, double downs permitted on any first two cards, including after splitting pairs, the house edge is 0.63 percent.

Even a relatively low-edge side bet such as 21 + 3 has a house edge five times as high as a common blackjack game against a basic strategy player. Given that there are exceptions for advantage players and that cards can be counted for some side bets, my recommendation for many years has been that most players should learn the ins and outs of blackjack, and ignore the side bets.


QUESTION: I found the Tulley’s Treasure Hunt slot machine with the skill bonus, and wow, am I ever bad on the joystick. I suppose I’d get better with practice, but I kept missing the coins and jewels as I tried to steer through the ocean reef. Should I take the free spins instead?

ANSWER: That’s up to you. I find the skill-based bonus more fun, and I’m not all that practiced either. One thing to consider: At the end of your ocean journey, you finish at a treasure chest. That’s there to make sure those of us who didn’t grow up with a joystick in our hands still get a nice bonus when our skill falters. For me, the fun of the game is in the skill bonus – it’s the reason I would choose to play Tulley instead of some other game with free-spin bonuses. But if you like the game overall and get frustrated by your lack of skill, then by all means, give the free spins a go.
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski